Paul shares ideas on managing the balance of sales: the grind and the beauty of this challenging profession.
Do you have a systemized process to prospect? This is critical!
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Keep challenging yourself.
Celebrate your successes, then get back to work!
Invest in yourself. You have to be a student of your profession.
Remember, it’s not about the deals we make, it’s about the difference we make for our customers.
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Mentioned in this podcast, Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within.
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And most importantly…make it a big day.
How do I manage the pressure of a new year?
(Transcribed from podcast)
Well, here we are in mid-December. We are getting close to the end of the year, and what a great time for Bart to ask this question. So Bart, we are going to answer your question on today’s episode of The Q and A Sales Podcast. This is perfect timing because I know many salespeople right now are pushing to finish the year strong, and they’re also looking towards the next year. So here’s the message from Bart:
Hi Paul. Hope you were doing well.
I am, Bart. Thanks for asking, man.
I am looking back on a good year. I hit my numbers and now I’m fully focused on next year. I have a question, and maybe it is one that aligns with your new book, Selling Through Tough Times. What a great book. By the way, I’m now reading your discovery chapter and the little details are phenomenal.
Well, hey Bart. Thanks for the shout-out on the book. And I’ll mention the book in today’s podcast because there’s a couple of tips that can help with your question. Here’s how Bart describes it. He said,
You know, I call this the hard-knock life for salespeople. And as a salesperson, you’re always looking for the next opportunity, the next month. You’re looking at the next quarter, the next year. You’re looking at your next targets, which are going to increase by the way, in 2023. You’re looking for that new customer. You’re looking to serve existing customers and so on. Bart says, it feels like I’m always in a hurry and can never be relaxed. I can’t enjoy my success because, you know, if you rest on your laurels, you get it back with a boomerang if you do not prospect, if you do not serve your customers, et cetera.
Wow. Bart, your question is so timely. I know that salespeople everywhere feel this pressure. Many of you listening to this podcast, you probably had a great year. You probably crushed your quota, and then in just a few short weeks, you’ve got to do it all over again. You constantly have to look towards the future. And that’s part of the grind; that’s part of the beauty of sales. But we’re going to talk about that on today’s episode. So how do you manage the pressure to produce? How do you stay present when you’re always thinking about the future and what comes next?
I’m going to share a few ideas, Bart, and I know that you are not alone in the way you feel right now. It’s perfectly normal. It’s perfectly healthy. In fact, I would say that the fact that you’re thinking about this, it shows how much you care about your profession.
Now, before I get into the tips and ideas, pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. As interest rates continue to be on the rise, we’re facing inflation still. There’s rumors of a recession. Over the next few weeks during the holiday season, pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. You know, three to six months from now, if we do in fact dip into a recession, you don’t want to be sitting there and saying, “Gosh, I wish I would’ve read this book sooner.” So take the time. Give yourself a treat this holiday, and that is pick up Selling Through Tough Times, available wherever you get your books. There’s also quite a few resources available at Toughtimer.com, so check that out.
So let’s get into it. How do you manage the pressure of having to produce every year—always looking for not knowing where your year is going to come from. First and foremost, you must develop a systemized process to prospect. That is so critical. And Bart, the reason why is that when you do feel overwhelmed—those mornings where you wake up and you realize, “I’ve got to hit this many new accounts. I’ve got to close this many deals. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do that,” it can be overwhelming. And so, when we do feel overwhelmed, we just need to rely on our process.
If we know that a systematic process will lead to our success, that gives us comfort. That’s something that we can control. Here’s one thing I would consider, Bart. Take a look at your activity level, and take a look at the revenue that you’ve generated, and try to develop a basic formula. Get a sense of how many calls it will take you to close a sale. Get a sense of how many touches you must make to get that first appointment. What you’re trying to figure out is the activity level that will help you achieve your goals. And once you have that systemized process in place, you can rely on that versus worrying about the unknown or thinking about the future—how it’s going to happen. Just take some faith in knowing that if you do the right things, you’re going to get the results. So that’s number one. Develop a systemized habit of prospecting.
Tip number two, Bart. Here we go. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. I was thinking about this. I was reflecting on a podcast just the other day—actually, one of the most downloaded podcasts in the library of Q and A Sales Podcast. It was with my buddy, Jimmy Vreeland. Jimmy’s an entrepreneur. He was a captain—Army Ranger. Served, I want to say in Afghanistan, Pakistan. And one of the things he would talk about with his troops/soldiers, is that you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The more you get used to that—the more you get used to stepping outside your comfort zone—the more normal it will feel.
So Bart, one thing I would encourage you to do is to find a way to challenge yourself every single week. Every single week, step outside your comfort zone. Do something that is uncomfortable. And we’ve got to remember, every time we step outside our comfort zone and we try something new, that anxious feeling that we have, that’s like when your muscles start to ache when you’re lifting weights. That is a sign that you’re getting stronger. The reason why we do this, every time you step outside your comfort zone, you expand your comfort zone.
So, you take a few steps out. You try something new. You try a new message. You go after a new prospect. You take on a new challenge at work. Every time you do these things, you’re stepping outside your comfort zone and widening your circle. That means the next time, these things that were once uncomfortable become a little more comfortable. So Bart, I hope that makes sense. Let’s step outside our comfort zone. Let’s try something new. Let’s go after a new goal. Let’s learn a new product. Let’s do something to step outside our comfort zone.
Tip number three, Bart. Look at the facts. This is something I talk about in Selling Through Tough Times. This is a way to build confidence and mental resilience. Bart, as you mentioned, you are on the tail-end of a good year. You’re looking back at 2022, right now, and you performed well. I would encourage you to stretch your time horizon even further. Look at the past several years. Now, you and I have communicated before, so I know you’re a top achiever. I know you’re a top performer. What you need to do is look at the facts. And if you become anxious about the future, if you’re thinking about, “Okay, where’s it going to come from next,” all you have to do is look at your past performance and say, “Okay, in 2019, I achieved my goal. In 2020, despite the pandemic, I achieved my goal. In 2021, I achieved my goal. ‘22, I’ve had another great year.”
You know, in every investment strategy guide, they have a disclaimer that says, past performance is not an indicator of future results. Well, in sales it is. And you can look at those facts, especially right now, this time of year, where you should be enjoying yourself. Yes, you should look to 2023, but look at those facts and realize that you are going to be successful again because you have proven to yourself, time and time again, that you’ve made it happen. Look at the facts.
And there’s an exercise I talk about in Selling Through Tough Times. I want you to think about what you’re fearful of. Think about the challenge that you’re facing, and I want you to prove to yourself that you can overcome that challenge. And how you do this, it’s a simple exercise. I want you to imagine that there’s a judge and the jury, and I want you to take the one thing you’re fearful of, that you’re anxious of, the challenge that you’re facing, and I want you to argue to that judge and jury that you can overcome it, which means you have to look at the facts, you have to present evidence. And presenting those facts and evidence is going to help you realize that, you know what, you’ve done it before, you’ve proven that you can achieve. Do it. Looking at the facts gives you confidence.
Now the next piece here, what’s the point of working hard if you don’t enjoy it? I think about this. I want to say it’s in Tony Robbins book, Awaken the Giant Within. We’ll make sure we have a link to this book. But, I remember listening to this book—love Tony Robbins. Great stuff. And one of the things he talked about was that when you achieve something, you got to give yourself a reward.
You think about this as salespeople. Let’s say your goal is to close 10 new prospects this year. Well, when you achieve that, give yourself a reward. But not only that, when you have a goal to make 10 prospecting calls that day, and you execute and actually deliver on those calls, give yourself a reward. It’s important that you celebrate your successes—really celebrate those successes. And even if they’re small, celebrate them. Big ones, celebrate them even more. Buy yourself something. Take a vacation. Then, when you’re done with a vacation, when you give yourself that reward, get back to work.
Every time that I’ve treated myself, whether it’s, let’s say I have a great week, so I reward myself with a round of golf on the weekend. Let’s say I achieved a couple of milestone events like I did this past year at the age of 40—celebrate it with a golf trip to Ireland. Big celebrations should come from big wins, and we need to celebrate it because that makes it worth it. It reinforces the behavior. So, you know, one thing I would encourage you, Bart, as you get to the end of this year, give yourself permission to celebrate. And maybe that does mean you take a few extra days off. Maybe that does mean you take that trip that you’ve been waiting to take. Give yourself the win.
Now another piece here, we’ve got to learn to love the grind. What’s interesting about sales? Nothing is certain, and it never will be. And we have to learn to love that grind. You know, I remember my first year as a professional speaker/sales trainer, and I was not yet an author at this point. I had a pretty good mentor, my dad, Tom Reilly, the original author of Value-Added Selling, and we’re now in the fourth edition. I remember after the first year, just losing sleep, not knowing where the business was going to come from, knocking on every door that I could imagine, just countless prospecting calls, grinding it out almost every single day. And I happened to just eke out a very modest living that first year in the business. And at the end of the year, I mean, I was relatively proud of what I had accomplished, just because I started from nothing, and I was able to have a successful first year.
And I remember asking my dad, who had been in this game for now [then] 25+ years, 30 years. Really? I said, “Dad, how do you get used to that grind?” And he said, “I’ll let you know.” I’ll let you know, meaning he still wasn’t used to it. So you got to learn to love it. You’ve got to learn to embrace it. You’ve got to love to realize that, in any given year, this could either be your best year or it could be your worst year, and you get to decide. You get to control your activity.
And one thing that I’ve learned in sales is that, you know, the more you grind it out—the extra calls that you make—the more effort you put in, the sweeter that success will taste. Not only that, but the more effort that you put in, good things just start happening. I do believe that the more we put out in the universe, the more effort we put out there, the passion that we show in what we do, the more we let the world see that, the world rewards us. We attract, we bring things to us just by creating that energy out there in the world. So, celebrate that; learn to love it. That’s part of what we signed up for in sales. So learn to love the grind.
Now number six. Bart, this is a close cousin to celebrating your success. Number six, invest in yourself. As a salesperson, you should constantly be reading the latest sales book, latest self-help book. Whatever it is, you have to be a true student of your profession. There are so many great sales books out there. Obviously, I’m partial to mine, but just pick up a book. Pick up your book: read, study. Not only that, invest in yourself through training. Bart, I’m sure that your company offers some internal sales training, or maybe they’ll reimburse you for going outside to a different training organization. Whatever it may be, invest in yourself. Go to that training conference. And what happens is that the more you invest in yourself, the more excited you become about your profession. You become eager to try out these new skills. And not only that, you’re building a deeper arsenal of sales tools and weapons to help you become more successful to manage the challenges that you’ll face in the next year. So invest in training. And not only that, invest your own money. Invest your own money. One thing I’ve learned about salespeople is they want to make sure that they gain the greatest return on any investment. Whether it’s their time, energy, effort, money, whatever it may be. When you put more skin in the game, you’re going to get more out of it. So put your own money in, alright? Take the time that you would’ve spent in your profession maybe making a few extra sales calls, prospecting calls, and dedicate that to training. You’re investing more your time, your energy, your effort, your money. The more you put in, the more you’re going to extract. So invest in yourself.
All right, Bart. And one last tip for you—tip number seven. In your message, you mentioned always looking to the future, looking at what we have next. In some ways, being anxious about how we’re going to achieve it, how we’re going to make it happen. When I think about this, I’m reminded that the most repeated phrase in the best-selling book of all time is don’t be afraid. So I think He’s trying to tell us something: don’t be afraid. And we need to realize that, you know what? Things are going to work themselves out. It’s going to work out. If you put in the effort, if you have the passion, if you invest in yourself, if you do the right things, you’re going to be successful.
To build on this, I think it’s also important that we embrace humility. Humility isn’t a virtue that is normally talked about in business, especially in sales. Because we have this picture in our mind of what does the ideal salesperson look like? And sometimes we think about this individual who walks into a room and you can almost see their ego, right? They walk in confidently, they walk in there, they own the room, they’re leading the charge. They’re running the conversation, right? They’re communicating persuasively. We think about all of these characteristics of top-performing salespeople. And what’s interesting, after working with, you know, hundreds and thousands of salespeople, I can tell you that one of the interesting characteristics or virtues that I see in top achievers is humility.
Yes, they’re passionate. They work hard. They plan their calls. They focus on the customer, but they’re very humble. They’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, but they’re humble enough to acknowledge that, “You know what? I can get better. I can improve.” And so, humility is extremely important. Not only that, but humility allows you to step outside of yourself.
So Bart, here’s something I noticed in your message. It was all about how do I find my next opportunity? How am I going to hit my number? What about my year next year? The focus is on ourself. And it’s hard not to focus on ourself, because we’re the one who has to achieve it. We’re the one who needs to make it happen. But what if we embrace a little humility here, and we think about ourself less? We realize it’s not about my quota that I must hit. We need to consider how we can help our client. It’s not about my priorities that I need to make sure that are front and center, it’s about solving my clients’ problems. It’s about putting their problems first, not my priorities. And we’ve got to remember, it’s not about the deals that we have to close next year. It’s about the difference we can make in our customers’ business. Think about that. What if that was our real motivation next year, and the year after, and the next month is that it’s no longer about us and all the things we have to do, it’s about how we can help others. We can only get to that point if we embrace a little humility.
So as we begin wrapping up this year, 2022 is soon to be in the rear-view mirror. Let’s embrace a little humility. Let’s put the focus on how we can help others, how we can help our clients, how we can make their lives easier, how we can solve their problems, how we can serve them more effectively, how we can make a difference in their business.
And think about it, by doing that, maybe just for a month or two, could change everything.
Make it a big day.